RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 30: Team Staal and Team Lidstrom line up for the Canadian and United States national anthems prior to in the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. This week we welcome Graham Taylor, the producer for Coyotes television broadcasts on Fox Sports Arizona, as our special guest. Graham can also be found talking hockey on Twitter. Graham and the gang discuss the upcoming all-star party in Ottawa along with what can been done to jump start the Desert Dogs.
Are you excited for the All-Star Festivities in Ottawa this coming weekend?
Graham: I am excited for the All-Star festivities. It's a great event to showcase not only the skill of the players in the NHL, but with the new made-for-tv format, it can really highlight some of their personalities. I just hope some of the players will let their guards down, open up and just be themselves without the worries of what other players may think of them. Personally speaking, I'll enjoy the time to re-introduce myself to my family. And I'm sure the players can use the time to re-energize in order to get to the business of a playoff push following the break.
Carl: I'm never 'excited' about an exhibition game, much less an NHL All-Star game. The only sporting event I'm less excited about is the NFL Pro Bowl. I wish they would just name an all-star team at the end of the season. However, I realize that is never going to happen given the money the league makes from the game and how much their sponsors like the concept. I enjoy the skills competition much more than the
pick up shinny game.
The Dude: I haven't watched the All-Star Festivities before so I can't really say I'm excited. I not sure if I will be watching the game or the skills competition yet, I'm more excited to watch the highlights, those are always fun.
Jonathan: To be quite honest, I haven't been enthused about the NHL All-Star game or festivities for some time now. I suppose the constant tinkering and overhauls to the format have pushed me away, but the draft last year was pretty cool.
Jordan: I usually enjoy the NHL All Star weekend, even if the game is somewhat not that interesting. The skills competition is definitely one of the highlights of the entire season and I think that it is must-see TV in my books. Having only Keith Yandle in attendance representing Phoenix is a bummer, but there are plenty of players making the trip that should be fascinating to see on this stage.
Do you have a favorite event in the all-star skills competition?
Graham: My favorite all-star skill competition event is the hardest shot. I always remember as a kid Al MacInnis having the most feared shot in the game, yet is was Al Iafrate that was winning that contest. It's like the home run derby - chicks dig the slapshot - and in most ways I prefer the skills competition to the game.
Carl: The Skills Challenge Relay. The relay combines the best of the other events into one.
The Dude: Not really.
Jonathan: The accuracy shooting was always fun the years I did watch the All-Star game. Just the idea of floating precise wristers into target-plates that shattered in the goal was exciting to watch.
Jordan: The accuracy shooting has always been my favorite since the first time I saw Ray Bourque drill all four targets in four shots. It's just a fascinating event and I think it showcases just how hard it is to score goals during a game when these players (the best in the league) struggle to hit the targets without a goalie and from pretty much point blank.
Name one non-Coyotes player who you believe should have been named to the all-star game and wasn't?
Graham: I think Vrbata or Whitney could have gone on skill, merit or even sentimentality... oh wait, NON-Coyotes player. I think the biggest oversights are probably Scott Hartnell in Philadelphia (really doing it all) and Nicklas Backstrom in Washington. Both hurt maybe because of their lack of star power and the players (Giroux, Ovechkin) they're playing with. But it's really hard to say anyone on the all-star roster doesn't deserve to be there.
Carl: The list is quite long given how selections are made and the number of teams in the league. I will rule out Nicklas Backstrom due to my Caps fan bias plus he's hurt (which is likely why he wasn't selected in the first place). My choice is Jason Garrison. He's been having an amazing season for the Panthers. The blueliner has 13 goals on the season. I've been extremely impressed with his play when I've watched the Panthers.
The Dude: Pass.
Jonathan: Winger David Backes, captain of the resurgent St. Louis Blues. With 14 goals and 18 assists, Backes has contributed greatly to the Blues bounce back in the standings, and with only a single representative in Ottawa (goalie Brian Elliott), the Blues definitely deserve another jersey on the ice.
Jordan: Scott Hartnell has made a pretty strong case for himself to get a trip to Ottawa (5 goals this past weekend didn't hurt that case in the least). He's playing with arguably one of the best players in the entire league, but his ability to put the puck in the net this year has just been a tremendous boon to the Flyers who are really struggling with injuries this year.
What one change would you make to the Coyotes either personnel or systems wise during the all-star break to try and jump start the squad?
Graham: I hope the Coyotes are able to find someone who can consistently produce on the top line and develop some chemistry with Langkow and Doan. I love the Whitney, Hanzal, Vrbata line staying together so it's who can they get to make the Langkow line be more of an offensive force. Injuries have been a major reason the lines have shuffled so much, especially down the middle, so getting/staying healthy will be a major factor for this team. There's just not a lot of room for error.
Carl: I would agree with a friend of mine who suggested more PP time for Oliver Ekman-Larrson. However, I'm not sure that alone would make a huge difference. The biggest change I would like to see is faster puck movement which should create better shooting lanes. In recent games they look to be focused on screening the goalies more, but without pucks reaching the net the screens won't matter.
The Dude: I'm not sure that there is just one small change that needs to be made to jump start the team I think its a lot of smaller changes. I would say that the power play system needs to be reworked since it is the most consistent problem. It isn't something where you can just point to one area and say "change this" to make it better either, they need to take more shots, have better zone entry, and figure out a way to get rebounds in. It could be they want to experiment with different groups, and different techniques, or just practice what they already have.
Jonathan: Well, obviously I would hope Tip and the staff find some way to jump start the depressing power play unit. If it takes more practice time, demoting/promoting players, a new forechecking strategy - anything to get pucks on the net and past the keeper. Another change I would like to see is a more prominent role for newcomer Gilbert Brule. His 2 goals and 3 points in 6 games with the team have provided a spark, and his flashy, fast and aggressive play in the offensive end reminds me a bit of Danny Briere, who also wore the #8 jersey.
Jordan: I don't know if I have anything in particular that I want to see changed. I'd love to see a sniper added to the roster, but I know that there are budgetary and other concerns regarding that move. It might be nice to see them try and bring up Brett MacLean and see if he can fill that role a bit. Mostly, I just want the team to use the break to get healthy and re-focused on what they need to do to succeed. They are going to come out of the break with a pretty rough schedule, but a lot of home games. They need to win the vast majority of them if they have any shot at being among the top 8 in the West at the end of the year.